MDBA drops efficiency plans
There has been a mixed response to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority's (MDBA) new water efficiency package.
The has given its support to 36 projects aimed at keeping the basin healthy, by limiting water use.
It says the saving of more than 600 gigalitre could mean no more water would need to be recovered from the southern basin, so that local irrigators would not have to give water through buybacks.
The plans include measures to change river operational rules and divert more water to important environmental sites.
They will be reviewed by the federal Water Minister in December.
South Australian Water Minister Ian Hunter says he will not endorse the MDBA’s plans until they included an additional 450GL of water for the environment.
“The reason why South Australia agreed to the so-called down water was because an extra 450GL was to be found to be returned to the river,” he said.
“If you do not give us the up water … we will not be agreeing to the down water.
“We just are not satisfied that there is that willingness among some basin states to deliver, given everything we have heard over the last few months.
“We will be wanting the Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce to be holding off on sending that down water package to the Senate.”
MDBA director of environmental management Carl Binning said the projects would let more flow to important environmental sites.
“If we can learn to mimic natural events … we can probably achieve more environmental outcomes at a higher level than we could in the past,” he told the ABC.
“By designing our river system to work in more sympathy with the environment, we can deliver those environmental outcomes with less water.”
The NSW Irrigators' Council welcomed the efficiency package.
The Renmark Irrigation Trust (RIT), down the far end of the river system, is concerned that the measures may not be able to save as much water as predicted.
The Ricegrowers' Association of Australia says it will be a challenge to deliver the projects without having adverse social and economic impacts.